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George Lois (born on June 26, 1931, in the Bronx, New York City) is a controversial American art director, designer, and author. Lois is best known for over 92 covers he designed [1] for Esquire Magazine. "George Lois' Esquire covers are considered among the most memorable propaganda imagery in any medium, and certainly the most provocative in the history of the magazine industry.",[2] from 1962 to 1972. Lois's Esquire covers offered a controversial statement on life in the 1960s with subjects including Norman Mailer, Muhammad Ali, Andy Warhol, Germaine Greer, and Richard Nixon. In 2008, The Museum of Modern Art exhibited 32 of Lois' Esquire covers. [2] Lois has since become infamous in the advertising world for taking credit for the work of others.

George Lois: Great Ideas Can't be Tested


He was born in New York City on June 26, 1931, the son of Greek immigrants. Lois attended the High School of Music and Art, and received a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, although he chose to attend Pratt Institute. Lois attended only one year at Pratt Institute, then left to work for Reba Sochis until he was drafted by the Army to fight in the Korean War six months later.

After the war, Lois went to work for the advertising and promotions department at CBS where he designed print and media projects. In 1959 he was hired by the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). After one year at DDB, Lois was recruited by Fred Papert along with Julian Koenig to form Papert, Koenig, Lois, in 1960. PKL, as it was known, was also the first advertising agency to ever go public. In 1967 he left to form Lois, Holland, Callaway. His last agency, Lois/USA, which created memorable campaigns for clients such as Minolta, Tourneau and The Four Seasons, ended its run in 1999.

Lois developed what he called "The Big Idea".[3] He has claimed to have created the concept and prototype design for the New York supplement for the Herald Tribune (the forerunner of New York magazine); created the “I Want My MTV” campaign; helped create and introduce VH1; renamed Stouffer's frozen foods products Lean Cuisine; and developed marketing and messaging for Jiffy Lube stations. He created the initial advertising campaign to raise awareness of designer Tommy Hilfiger. Other clients have purportedly included: Xerox, Aunt Jemima, USA Today, ESPN[4] and four U.S. Senators: Jacob Javits (R-NY); Warren Magnuson (D-WA); Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-PA); Robert Kennedy (D-NY). His one music video, Jokerman by Bob Dylan, won the MTV Best Music Video of the Year Award in 1983.

George Lois is the only person in the world inducted into The Art Directors Hall of Fame, The One Club Creative Hall of Fame, with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Society of Publication Designers, as well as a subject of the Master Series at the School of Visual Arts.[5] He and other notable advertising alumni of his era are the subject of the movie Art & Copy.

Lois has been widely accused of stealing credit for others' ideas and for exaggerating his participation. The June 19, 2009 episode of the radio program This American Life featured a segment in which several of Lois' former associates claimed he took credit for ad campaigns, ad copy and Esquire covers that were partially or wholly the work of others. The program contained interviews with Carl Fischer (the photographer who shot most of the Esquire covers, including some falsely claimed by Lois (e.g. St. Patrick's Cathedral) [6]) and two of Lois' former partners, Julian Koenig and Fred Papert.[7]

On May 18, 2008, the New York Times published a correction of an April 27, 2008 review of a George Lois art exhibit. In the correction, the Times stated that the "Think Small" Volkswagen ad campaign and the "I Want My Maypo" campaign were not created by George Lois. The correction identified Julian Koenig and Helmut Krone as the creators of the VW ad campaign, and John and Faith Hubley as the creators of the Maypo campaign, contradicting Lois' published claims of credit for these ad campaigns.[8]

Lois' website also claims he designed the Nickelodeon orange logo in use from 1984 until 2010. The originators of the logo, Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert, dispute that assertion, citing the actual designers Tom Corey and Scott Nash of Corey McPherson Nash, Boston.[9]

Art Directors Hall of Fame: 1978
Advertising Hall of Fame
Advertising Age magazine "100 Most Influential Advertising Practitioners of the Twentieth Century".
Copywriters Hall of Fame
AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Gold Medal: 1996
Society of Publication Designers Herb Lubalin Award Winner: 2004


Lois, George (2008). George Lois on his Creation of the Big Idea. New York: Assouline. pp. 240. ISBN 978-2754032291.

Hilfiger, Tommy and Lois, George (2007). Iconic America: A Roller-Coaster Ride through the Eye-Popping Panorama of American Pop Culture. New York: Universe. pp. 350. ISBN 978-0781573231.

Lois, George (2006). Ali Rap. New York: Taschen. pp. 608. ISBN 978-3822853262.

Lois, George (2003). $ellebrity: My Angling and Tangling With Famous People. New York: Phaedon. pp. 272. ISBN 0714881242.

Heller, Steven; Lois, George; Helfand, Jessica; and Rand, Paul (1999). Paul Rand. New York: Phaedon Press. pp. 255. ISBN 978-0714834387.

Lois, George (1996). Covering the '60s: George Lois -- The Esquire Era. New York: Monacelli. pp. 192. ISBN 978-1825434245.

Lois, George and Pitts, Bill (1993). What's the Big Idea?: How to Win with Outrageous Ideas (That Sell!). New York: Plume. pp. 304. ISBN 978-0459069385.

Lois, George (1991). What's the Big Idea?. New York: Doubleday Press. pp. 288. ISBN # 978-0384154869.

Lois, George and Pitts, Bill (1977). The Art of Advertising: George Lois on Mass Communication. New York: Harry N Abrams. pp. 336. ISBN 978-0812303739.

Lois, George (1972). George, Be Careful. New York: Saturday Review Press. pp. 245. ISBN 978-0841501904.


Matthew Schwartz interviews George Lois for From Print to Digital: On Location, 2008 by ScribeMedia.Org
Dominik Imseng interviews George Lois on the Creative Revolution
George Lois looks back on his work, the art of communication, risk-taking, and celebrities. Guest Lecture at School of Visual Arts, MFA Design program Part 1
George Lois looks back on his work, the art of communication, risk-taking, and celebrities. Guest Lecture at School of Visual Arts, MFA Design program Part 2
George Lois looks back on his work, the art of communication, risk-taking, and celebrities. Guest Lecture at School of Visual Arts, MFA Design program Part 3


^ (http://www.magazine.org/asme/top_40_covers/)
^ The New York Times
^ University of Texas Graduate School of Advertising
^ http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-georgelois
^ [1]
^ http://slamxhype.com/blogs/great-magazine-covers-1-sonny-liston-esquire/
^ This American Life, 383: Origin Story, available at http://thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=383 (last visited June 23, 2009).
^ McGrath, Charles (April 27, 2008). "Cover Story: The King of Visceral Design". The New York Times.
^ The Fred/Alan Archive, http://fredalan.org/post/69174412/the-nickelodeon-logo-designed-by-tom-corey-scott

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